Focus on Family Fun this Halloween

October 24th, 2012

It’s just about Halloween and everywhere you turn there seems to be candy, candy and more candy! Sweet treats around every corner are not easy to resist, but it can be done. Here are a few tips to help you put less emphasis on the candy bag and more on family fun.

Make the most of your pumpkin.

My favourite Halloween memory as a child is carving pumpkins with my Mama.  Every year we’d either grow or buy a pumpkin, or five, and have a healthy competition for best jack-o-lantern. We didn’t however stop at carving – we always took it a step further and roasted the seeds for a tasty seasonal treat. My favourite was roasting the seeds on a sheet pan with a little canola oil and sea salt and black pepper. My Mama was braver and tried many different seasoning mixes such as Cajun or curry. The possibilities are endless. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of mono and polyunsaturated fats, which are known to be heart healthy fats. So, enjoy this tasty treat with the family, perhaps while watching a scary movie!

Tip: Remove seeds from pumpkin and wash. Dry with a paper towel or clean hand towel. Place of a parchment lined baking sheet and bake in a 325 degree oven for 45-60 minutes until dry and toasted to golden brown.  Sprinkle with your favourite low sodium seasoning when seeds are still warm. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Enjoy alone or add to muffins, salads or home made granola.

Make foods a scream.

Foods do not have to be sugary to be festive or Halloween worthy. With a little “creative marketing” many healthy foods can take on festive charm. For example, whole grain spaghetti and turkey meatballs is a great family meal, but on Halloween this dish is better known as worms and eyeballs. Gross, I know. Kids love to dip just about anything. When we entertain or want a treat for Sunday Night Football I’ll often make a warm spinach dip. The dip is made with fat free mayonnaise, fat free Greek yogurt, scallions, water chestnuts and drained chopped spinach. I usually top with a little low fat cheese and bake under the broiler for 8-10 minutes before serving with vegetables and whole grain crackers. Delicious! For Halloween this dip quickly transforms to “Ghost guts” and carrots and celery sticks, witches fingers.

Get creative and opt for non-food treats.

Kids love candy, no doubt. But many trick-or-treaters would also love a craft inspired toy. For example, new pencils, erasers, stickers, note pads, wash-a-way tattoos, spider rings, play-doh etc. are good options. I usually hit up the local dollar store and spend an hour making little Halloween bags and then I can focus on fun stuff – a costume.

Set limits and avoid food rewards.

Before your child embarks on his or her trick or treating adventure decide together on a sensible candy container. If your child leaves the house with a pillowcase it’s going to be super hard to manage their candy intake in the coming days or weeks. Set some rules around candy consumption. How many per day? When can they be eaten? However, avoid using candy or any food as a reward for good behavior. Why? Here are some key reasons:

Food as a reward…

  • Teaches children to eat as a reward, even when/if they’re not hungry
  • Sends the message that achievements should be marked by eating
  • Often adds unnecessary calories, sugar, and fat to the child’s diet, which can cause weight gain or an unhealthy weight.
  • Undermines healthy nutrition practices being taught at home or at school
  • Can establish poor dietary habits that may last a lifetime.

If treats are around set limits, but allow your children to enjoy them within those limits and not because of good behavior.

Focus on family fun!

Lastly, a way to make Halloween healthier can be to take the focus away from food in general.  Get your kiddos excited for the holiday by making a costume together or creating fun Halloween craft projects.  Enjoying time together is the best recipe for a memorable Halloween.